M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts is the most entertaining and original post-apocalyptic zombie tale I have read in quite some time. Not only is the story populated with unique characters, not only is the plot surprising, but also the tale focuses on science. The zombies are given a wonderfully scientific and plausible origin story, and portions of the plot focus on how science attempts to solve the problem of the zombies – or hungries as they are called in the novel.
We see the story through Melanie’s eyes, a ten-year-old girl we meet while she lives in a cell on an army base, a girl whose existence is confined to this cell outside of a once-a-week feeding and daily lessons. Transported from cell to classroom strapped into a wheelchair, Melanie never is free, never is outside, never is touched…except once by her favorite teacher Miss Justineau who Melanie has quite the crush on. The reality of Melanie’s situation becomes clear quickly to the reader, if not to Melanie, and within a chapter or two, Carey’s ability to not just play on readers’ emotions but to manipulate them over the long-haul is clear.
This book gave me the feels. I was in the story’s grip from page one, and I was fascinated watching Melanie, a child genius, slowly understand the world she lives in and her place in it. But Melanie isn’t the only character we get to delve into: we also get to know Miss Justineau – and not just as Melanie’s teacher crush – along with the just-trying-to-keep-it-together Sergeant Parks, the monsters-are-everywhere Private Gallagher, and the for-the-greater-good Dr. Caldwell. Each of these characters is given enough detail and page-time for me to understand and relate to them (although that relatability is quite different character to character).
I found the movie version of the novel, The Girl with All the Gifts, and as it is available through Amazon Prime, I might even give it a whirl. Let me know if you’ve seen it.
As I was reading and especially as I finished, I was 100% over the moon that it wasn’t a trilogy. While I love immersing myself in a world for months on end, reading book after book in a series, there was something so wonderfully self contained about this story that I love it as a standalone. Then, about a week after reading, I heard that a second book from this world was released: The Boy on the Bridge. It’s a prequel of sorts, set in the same world but not featuring the same characters. I honestly don’t know if I will read this one as I was so satisfied by The Girl with all the Gifts. If you’ve read it, let me know if I should check it out.